Record bridge threatens Japan's emerald isle
Monday 06 April 1998
The occasion was the opening of the Akashi Kaikyo bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world, and proofthat Japan's economy has plenty of puff left. The bridge, started 10 years ago, is superlative in every respect. It has been built to withstand 180mph winds and earthquakes as big as 8.5 on the Richter scale. When nearby Kobe was struck by an earthquake three years ago, the foundations were not damaged. More than two million people have worked on it and the distance between its two massive towers is 6,750ft - 2,000ft longer than the Humber estuary bridge. The total cost was about $3.7bn (pounds 2.3bn).
Another bridge already links Shikoku to the main island of Honshu and a third farther west, will open next year. But the point about Akashi Kaikyo is that it connects the island directly with Kansai, the great metropolitan sprawl which fuses Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto.
If Kansai were an independent state, its economy would be bigger than that of Canada; the bridge will cut more than an hour off ferry times to the cities of Shikoku and open them up to mainland businesses. Economists talk enthusiastically of billions of yen of new business for the region every year. But how much of that loot remains in Shikoku remains to be seen.
The bridge will carry visitors, of course, but the charm of Shikoku has been its success in resisting the homogenising effects of mass tourism. Products and services from the mainland will be available more quickly and cheaply to the island's 40 million people. But the price will be a squeeze on small local businesses. The island's town of Sakaide has seen its businesses falter and population drop by 10 per cent since it was joined to the mainland a decade ago by the first bridge. Locals speak of a "revolving door" through which people and money pass but do not stay. Katsuto Uchihashi, a Kobe economist, says: "The law of the economy is that the big and powerful invariably swallow up the small and the weak."
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
Migrants crossing the Mediterranean: Pope Francis joins calls for EU action on boat refugees
Yemen crisis: Meet the child soldiers recruited by the Shia Houthi rebels who have forsaken books for Kalashnikovs
Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Isis in Afghanistan: Group claims responsibility for Jalalabad suicide bombing that killed 35
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...